Book Review: “Necessary Lies” by Diane Chamberlain

Wow. I have never been more grateful to have been born in this era. Screw anyone who says life was better back in the day, this shit is scary. Necessary Lies follows the story of Jane Forrester, a twenty-two year old fresh-faced social worker serving in the area of Grace County, North Carolina in the 1960’s (yeah you can probably tell where this is going….) and Ivy Hart, a fifteen year old orphan living with her grandmother and mentally retarded older sister, Mary Ella, in a tiny shack on the outskirts of a tobacco farm. The set up, as anyone who knows anything about the South in the ’60’s, is grim. So, here it goes.


Incredibly informative and well researched story – the main focus of this story is the forced sterilization of mentally retarded, impoverished, and disabled women that took place in North Carolina and other states back in “the good ole days.” I didn’t know much about forced sterilization before I read this book and reading the cold, objective opinions of Jane’s fellow social workers was absolutely infuriating. In summary: Jane fights to save Ivy from  a forced sterilization after becoming close to the Hart family, while struggling with her dying marriage to a close-minded doctor (seriously I would have not survived this era, the groupthink of white upper/middle class women of this era is fucking scary); while also dealing with the issues surrounding Mary Ella’s earlier sterilization (which she has no knowledge of) and helping her try to retain custody of her son, Baby William, who’s uncertain parentage creates more problems for the family (more about this later).

Easy but addictive – you can easily finish this book in a day or two. Chamberlain is a woman who knows her drama, and definitely knows how to reel an audience in. If you’re looking for some good, easy to read drama, then this book is for you.


Ending is too clean – I’m the type of girl who appreciates some realism (especially when your dealing with a bunch of characters suffering under some pretty grim circumstances), but, despite the incredible hardships Ivy, her family and her neighbors go through, everything turns out groovy in the end, and Ivy and Jane get to have a tearful reunion forty years later at a Starbucks while surrounded by their happy and financially successful families. Some people like this type of ending, I do not.

Author misleads reader over one particular character – so basically, Chamberlain set out all the clues for one character to be Baby William’s father, then pulled a 360 somewhere 3/4 of the way through and decided, “nah, better be the evil rapey guy after all!” Looking back on the clues given, I actually liked the idea of the first guy being the Baby Daddy better, and I thought inserting the Evil Manipulating White Man at the last minute felt too contrived.


Necessary Lies  is a great read for someone who likes drama and mystery. It’s an easy weekend read, and great for people who like there Happily Ever Afters. 7/10


3 thoughts on “Book Review: “Necessary Lies” by Diane Chamberlain

  1. This sounds like a pretty interesting book. I don’t get enough mystery in my literary diet, so I think I’ll give this one a shot. I’m a sucker for period pieces (doesn’t really matter which period). What other stuff from Diane Chamberlain do you recommend?

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